Criminal expert to head Te'o's defence
By Wayne Heming
BRISBANE, April 10 AAP – Brisbane will employ the services of a legal eagle involved in the Bali Nine trial to get Ben Te’o cleared of a grade three dangerous contact charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday.
Peter Shields worked as a defence lawyer for one of the nine Australians, who were arrested and charged with smuggling heroin into Indonesia in 2005.
Broncos chairman Paul White revealed the Brisbane-based criminal law expert would spearhead the club’s defence when Te’o pleads not guilty to the charge arising from an attempted shoulder hit on Wests Tigers prop Matt Groat last week.
A seething Brisbane named Te’o in their 17-man squad to play Canberra on Friday as debate continued to rage over the future of shoulder charges.
Shields has not previously appeared at an NRL judiciary hearing.
However, he has served as chairman of the Queensland Rugby League tribunal for more than eight years.
The first player to be hit with such a high grading for a shoulder charge, Te’o will be suspended for four NRL games if found guilty.
Brisbane will not seek a downgrade of the charge, and are intent on vigorously arguing Te’o’s innocence.
“We will be pleading not guilty to the offence for which Ben has been charged,” said White, a former policeman.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction. We’ve taken a measured and considered approach to this as we do with all things at this club.
“We’ve taken legal advice, discussed it rigorously amongst our coaching staff and our senior leadership group and we’re happy with the decision we’ve made.”
Brisbane are regularly accused of protesting their innocence too often.
But figures show they last attended the judiciary in round 21, 2008 when Justin Hodges was suspended for two weeks for contrary conduct.
In that same four-year period, North Queensland have appeared seven times with Canterbury and Melbourne next with five visits to the tribunal.
“We look forward to tomorrow night and we believe the judiciary process will give us a fair hearing and we look forward to presenting our defence,” said White.
White would not reveal what the club’s defence would involve.
Brisbane declined to challenge recent charges against Sam Thaiday before last year’s finals series and veteran prop Petero Civoniceva just before round one this year.
It’s clear they’ve drawn a line in the judiciary sand over Te’o’s case, which should he lose, would be three games heavier than the punishment handed out to Bulldogs’ enforcer Frank Pritchard for a similar incident earlier this season.
“Ben is the first player charged with a grade three dangerous contact which carries five times more points than Pritchard whose charge was a lower grade,” said White.
“That’s the offence we will be challenging tomorrow night.”
The hearing also puts the controversial shoulder charge, outlawed by rugby union but embraced by league fans, on trial.
10 Apr 9:29 PM